With the release of Tyler Christensen debut film, HOUSE OF PURGATORY, we spoke with the director to learn more about the inspiration for his film, his love for haunts and the twisted joy he gets from scaring his loved ones and what it's like to be an indie horror director.
Shannon McGrew: Hi Tyler! Thanks for talking with Nightmarish Conjurings today! For those not familiar with HOUSE OF PURGATORY, can you tell us a little bit about the film?
Tyler Christensen: It is a film about a group of teenagers in Wisconsin, who on Halloween night go looking for this haunted attraction, the kind-of urban legend that I heard about growing up, about a haunted house that is so frightening that they'll give you a portion of your admission fee back for every floor you can go up. However, it's so scary that no one has ever made it all the way through. So these four kids going looking for it and find that it does exist and what it has in store for them is much darker than they had ever imagined.
SM: That sounds fascinating! I'm a big fan of haunted houses.
TC: Haunted houses are so fun, same with Halloween in general. Haunted houses themselves are such a bizarre but amazing phenomenon. It's like we pay money to go through these things for people to scare the crap out of us (laughs).
SM: That's kind of what the thrill of them is all about! What inspired you to want to make a film that centered around a haunted house? Was it because of this urban legend you heard about growing up?
TC: Yeah, I heard about this story while growing up and it wasn't until years later when it was time to sit down and write the movie that I realized it was an urban legend (laughs). I felt like an idiot, here I am, 100% convinced that this thing existed somewhere. From the moment I realized it was an urban legend I had this thought of how cool it was that I completely fell for it and I found that intriguing. In the case of HOUSE OF PURGATORY, this house knows your darkest secrets and turns them against you.
SM: Since we've been speaking so much about haunted house, are you a fan of them?
TC: Oh I love them!
SM: What are your thoughts on the more extreme haunts that have begun to gain popularity in the past few years? Do you think they are becoming more extreme because people are looking for that next type of thrill?
TC: Yeah, I personally like the ones that are just scary - like I want to be very uncomfortable and creeped out versus the kind that harass you and try to kidnap you (laughs). I think the extreme haunts are a natural extension, where people are beginning to want more and these haunts are trying to figure out ways to give these people more.
SM: Going back to HOUSE OF PURGATORY, this is your directorial debut. Would you like to continue making films within the horror genre?
TC: Absolutely! I think a lot of people's first films wind up being in the horror genre because they are cheaper to make and there's always a market for them, but for me, that's always been what I wanted. I've been so obsessed with horror for as long as I can remember so there's never been a question about that. Regardless of what I do, I will always come back to horror.
SM: What is it about the horror genre that you love so much?
TC: I don't know (laughs). I just really loved scaring people from an early age. I have a younger sister and there were years when she didn't want to talk to me much because all I would do is scare her - I would hide in her room, under the bed, outside tapping on the window when she was having her friends over for sleepovers, rigging up figures in her closet that swooped down when she would open her door - the poor thing haha. I've just always loved scaring people and telling stories so it's been a natural progression.
SM: When it came to casting the roles for the film, what was the process like?
TC: It's tricky because there are so many of these films, so many of these low budget horror films, so the actors that are good are reading so many scripts and when they see another low budget horror film it's hard to get on their radar. A big part of the initial process was separating this script from the others and making people realize that we aren't just making another horror film because we learned how to make visual effects and wanted to cut people's arms off, but that this is a stick-with-you thriller. I think once that got out people realized the type of film we were making and the actors really responded to that and that's how we got such a great cast.
SM: Last but not least, what can we look forward to in the future from you?
TC: I've got a couple projects in the work, nothing that has any dates set yet. When you make your first film you kind of learn how to do it and then during your second film you start to learn how to master it. During the first film you call in a lot of favors and have a lot of credit card debt and for the second one you kind of say, okay someone else can pay for this one (laughs). So hopefully I'll have something soon but I definitely have a couple of things in the works.
SM: Well thank you so much for speaking with me today and we wish you and HOUSE OF PURGATORY nothing but continued success.
HOUSE OF PURGATORY is now available to rent on iTunes, Xbox, Amazon Instant, Google Play, Vudu, PlayStation, YouTube, and Vimeo on Demand. The film is also set to be released on Amazon Prime, 24-Hour Movie Channel on Roku, DVD and Cable VOD at a later date.